The College Bowl Season is officially underway. Now begins the last ditch effort by college football players to make an impression on NFL scouts and try to work their way into the NFL. I think it is time to start breaking down early prospects for the Jets. Gang Green's biggest need is arguably a starting pass rusher. Luckily, this draft is chock full of pass rushing talent in the first couple of rounds. I am going to take a look and give a report on 8 prospects that the Jets may target come April: Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus, Brandon Jenkins, Ronnell Lewis, Nick Perry, Melvin Ingram, Andre Branch, and Vinny Curry.Courtney Upshaw, 34 OLB, Alabama
Weight: 270 lbs
40 time: 4.75-4.85
Courtney Upshaw is one of the more intriguing prospects for the Jets. He excelled at Alabama where he is a two-year starter. Coming out of 'Bama, he has experience playing in the 34 defense. Upshaw is very strong and his bull rush in arguably the most devastating out of anyone in college football. He sets the edge well because of great lower body strength. Very quick off the ball, allowing him to come up with a variety of moves to get past offensive tackles. Runs great sideline to sideline and has a keen ability to locate the football. Upshaw's height is a bit underwhelming, but when he finds a good balance between his stature and strength, he creates great leverage that allows him to overpower blockers. Very versatile - he has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and defensive end.
I have a feeling that Rex will fall in love with Upshaw's versatility and experience in the 34. He could end up falling because he does not fit many teams defense's, so having him coming to the Jets is a good possibility. When I watch him play, I see a bigger and faster James Harrison. Having a player who not only rushes the passer well, but also locates the ball carrier and makes plays on the run would be a key piece to a Jets defense that has struggled in both areas on and off throughout the year. A big knock on Upshaw is his struggles against the pass. He does not hold up well in man coverage. However, he is adequate in hook zones and flats. He struggles in a 3 point stance which will limit his play at defensive end.
Courtney Upshaw vs LSU (via BrownsOrBust)
Andre Branch, Defensive End/Outisde Linebacker, Clemson
Weight: 265 lbs
40 time: 4.65-4.8
Branch has absolute perfect size to play outside linebacker in the NFL. He comes off the ball very quickly and if you combine that with his speed, he can become a nightmare speed rusher at the NFL level. Plays the run and the pass both adequately. Very athletic and has a high motor. As the game goes on, Branch keeps playing at a high level, very rarely falling off of his horse.
Andre Branch is a player whom many expect to rise into the first round in the coming months. He has good scheme versatility and would likely be able to make a smooth transition to 34 OLB in the Jets defense. However, Branch does tend to whiff on tackles and is not super aggressive in his pursuit of the ball. Often gets overpowered by blockers at the line of scrimmage and relies on broken plays to make a sack. Branch is a player whom people may look at and see an OK player now, but his ceiling is very high. He needs to mature, but has the potential to be a great player in the NFL. I actually compare him to Aaron Maybin. They both have great speed around the edge, but Branch has a much better size advantage.
Andre Branch vs Virginia Tech 2011 (via JMPasq)
Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Illinois
Weight: 265 lbs
40 time: 4.65-4.75
The best thing about Mercilus is his motor. He never gives up during a play and that relentless pursuit allows him to be an outstanding pass rusher. Nice combination of speed and strength. Most of the time will get better leverage than his blocker. He has an outstanding bull rush and spin move.
Mercilus will probably end up as a first round pick by a team in need of a 4-3 defensive end. He does not have great scheme versatility and may have a rough transition were he to be drafted by a 34 defense. Does not get off of blocks well, causing him to sometimes be a liability in the running game. He comes off of the snap a bit late. When pass rushing, he often goes to wide of the blocker, creating a larger gap between him and the quarterback. Rarely ever drops back into coverage, and when he has, he's shown that he has a long ways to go. Needs to mature as a player. Coming out of a smaller school, but actually saw some pretty nice competition this year and capitalized on it (check Whitney Mercilus vs Mike Adams of Ohio State). I like to compare him to Osi Umenyiora. He is a good pass rusher, but that's pretty much it. Has a long ways to go in both the run and passing game.
Whitney Mercilus Video (via nyccfbfan)
Ronnell Lewis, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma
Weight: 244 lbs
40 time: 4.65-4.75
Lewis has good combination of speed and strength and uses them to gain good leverage on blockers. Has great instincts. Very fast off of the snap and often gets around the edge with ease. Played hybrid defensive end/34 OLB this year so his scheme versatility is favorable for the Jets. Great hand usage.
Lewis does not have good size to play linebacker in the NFL and may need to bulk about at least 15 lbs before he can be a starter. Doesn't blow people away with his strength, but finds a nice balance. Questionable run defender. Has the athleticism to be good in coverage, but has not shown it yet. In the end, Lewis is a good fit for the Jets. He has played as a 34 OLB so he knows what will be asked of him. He is also a great athlete with a high ceiling. With some good coaching, can really turn into an every down linebacker, as long as he can learn to play the run and the pass well. I like comparing him to Mathias Kiwanuka on the Giants. Kiwi has a good ability to rush the passer, but his scheme versatility allows him to play as a stand up linebacker.
Ronnell Lewis Highlights (via tarheelblue00)
Brandon Jenkins, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Florida State
Weight: 260 lbs
40 time: 4.7-4.8
Brandon Jenkins had a very good 2010 campaign with 13.5 sacks. He fell a bit in production in 2011 with 7 sacks, but there is no doubt that he has very good pass rushing ability. Jenkins is quick off of the snap. He uses his long arms to his advantage to gain good separation from his blocker and then uses his quick motor to finish the rush. Played a hybrid position in 2011, giving him good scheme versatility. Very good in coverage.
Jenkins is not very aggressive and that shows when he is playing the run. He is not an outstanding athlete either. His lack in production was caused primarily by more double teams. With some coaching, Jenkins could be a very good rush linebacker in the NFL. His every down potential is questionable, but we have seen players similar to him become very good as starters. He is destined for a 34 defense and could be a good fit with the Jets. My main problem is that he probably would work out of a limited pass rushing role until he solidifies his game. Jenkins is very similar to Terrell Suggs, who plays as a linebacker in pass rushing role for the Ravens.
FSU DE Brandon Jenkins Junior Season Highlights (via RajonRondoShow)
Vinny Curry, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Marshall
Weight: 263 lbs
40 time: 4.75-4.85
Vinny Curry played mostly defensive end in college, but his size and technique could allow him to be a very good 34 outside linebacker at the next level. He has very good size and combines that with nice speed. He is a smart player who likes to go for the forced fumble, but only when he knows it is safe. Curry delivers big blows and takes advantage of breakdowns in blocking. He is very quick and agile, allowing him to turn on a dime.
Curry needs to mature in coverage in both the run and the pass. He comes from a lower level school, but he capitalized on it and was a consistent producer. He does not have a large catalog of moves to get to the quarterback, but his bull rush is very sound and effective. Curry will likely be available in the mid second round. He might be a bit more suited as a 4-3 defensive end because of his less than whelming ability in coverage. He has a similar playing style to Robert Mathis of the Colts. He might take a year or two to get used to playing in Rex Ryan's defense, but his potential is great and could end up being a steal in the second round.
No. 99 Vinny Curry 43RDE & LDE Marshall vs WVU 2011 (via mathew40)
Melvin Ingram, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, South Carolina
Weight: 276 lbs
40 time: 4.8-4.9
Melvin Ingram has been playing on a South Carolina defense that features many top pass rushers. While there, Ingram showed his scheme versatility. Plays very well in pass coverage, especially in mid-zones. Uses many moves to beat the block. Great athlete with a great motor and nose for the ball.
Not very explosive off of the snap. Not very fast. Too small height wise to play DE, but too small weight wise to play DT. Ingram is currently rated 15 on Todd McShay's big board which is probably a little high. He definitely benefited from playing with Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, but it is good that he took advantages of opportunities. I am not Ingram's biggest fan. He doesn't seem to have a position that he should be playing, but rather a few positions that he could rotate in and out of. He is very similar to Karl Klug in Tennessee. Both are undersized, but still find a way to compensate. I think his best fit for the Jets would be at OLB where he actually plays in similar style to Calvin Pace
Melvin Ingram vs Auburn (via BrownsOrBust)
Nick Perry, Outside Linebacker, Southern California
Weight: 250 lbs
40 time: 4.55-4.70
Nick Perry has started for three years on a top notch USC defense. He has blazing speed for and outside linebacker, which could push his stock up much higher than it is now. Perry has very nice strength, which is surprising considering his size. He has great versatility and has lined up at defensive end and outside linebacker about equally for USC. He has a very nice swim move and his athleticism is top notch.
Perry has some struggles against the run. He has also been inconsistent throughout his career. Perry has had a bad injury history, which is very concerning. He has good strength for the college level, but needs to bulk up to be an NFL starter. He needs to develop some more moves to get to the quarterback and really needs to find a way to use his track speed to his advantage. He has only forced two fumbles in his career. He also gets too wide sometimes when going around the edge. He plays much like Cameron Wake in Miami and Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants. Speed is key for both and separate them from the rest of the competition. With some refining and coaching, I believe Perry could eventually start for the Jets as an outside linebacker. It all depends on whether he can find away to take advantage of his athletic prowess.
USC DE #8 Nick Perry Highlights 2010 (via CaliforniasGold)
Note: the above video are Perry's highlights from 2010. He has gotten better since.
Thank you for reading my scouting reports on some outside linebackers that the Jets may be interested in come draft day. Over the coming months, I will be doing scouting reports on wide receivers, safeties, and a couple of other positions.
Which of the above pass rushers are your favorite?
Courtney Upshaw (26 votes)
Nick Perry (3 votes)
Brandon Jenkins (3 votes)
Vinny Curry (3 votes)
Whitney Mercilus (4 votes)
Melvin Ingram (1 vote)
Ronnell Lewis (0 votes)
40 total votes